On Monday night's Q&A, Duncan Storrar asked Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer a question. It was straightforward enough. But what made it unusually compelling was that Storrar tied it to his own experience:
"I've got a disability and a low education, that means I've spent my whole life working for minimum wage. You're going to lift the tax-free threshold for rich people. "If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life. That means that I get to say to my little girls, 'Daddy's not broke this weekend. We can go to the pictures'. Rich people don't even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don't I get it? Why do they get it?"
People ask politicians questions of fairness like this all the time. But Q&A, and most of the media besides, thrives on the personal. Had Storrar posed the question in a less personal, more academic manner, it would have been less compelling television. It probably wouldn't have been picked by Q&A's producers. But by posing the question based on his own life, he invited immediate feedback. While O'Dwyer answered the question in a detached manner (by talking about economics), her co-panelist, the Australian Industry Group's Innes Willox, immediately turned the torch back on Storrar.
"Duncan, I'll be harsh in my message ... If you're on the minimum wage and with a family, you would not pay much tax, if any at all. Would you? You would not pay much tax."
Storrar responded that he did pay tax -- every time he purchased something. Willox appeared unprepared for this response. But what he was likely driving at, that Storrar would pay little net tax, was fleshed out in the coming days. The exchange was highly compelling and widely covered in the media. "Quintessential Aussie battler, Duncan Storrar stole the Q&A show," said Fairfax's incorrectly punctuated blurb on a video of the exchange. Before noon on Tuesday, Fairfax's Michael Koziol and Daniel Cherny had found Storrar and prompted him for further details about his life. And why not? Courtesy of his appearance on Q&A, Storrar was now at the centre of the media cycle. Their treatment was sympathetic. But by Wednesday, The Australian splashed with Storrar on its front page, after visiting him at his Geelong home. And its treatment was more sceptical.

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Wednesday, May 11